When I was in middle school, my sister took singing lessons at the home of a busty, bouffanted woman named Eleanor who had a disgruntled Shih Tzu, shag carpeting, and a wicker coffee table covered in stacks upon stacks of the trashiest tabloid magazines imaginable. This was the only reading material to peruse for the hour and a half that my mother and I were stuck there each Tuesday.
There was National Enquirer, Star (before it became a glossy US Weekly ripoff), the Sun, and Globe, all on cheap newsprint that turned your fingertips gray, and there was little that my mom could do to stop me from the joys of traumatizing myself with their contents. These shameless, tawdry papers had three topics that always graced their covers: conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana, miscellaneous speculations about "Wacko Jacko," and "new details" about the JonBenét Ramsey case.
Week after week, month after month, the tabloids never seemed to tire of going over another handwriting sample or theory about the Ramsey family's dark underbelly. Sometimes the mother, Patsy, was the murderous necromancer who slaughtered her angelic daughter in a jealous rage; other times, the alleged culprit was some random electrician from their Colorado town whose ex-girlfriend had tried to sell him out for a cheap buck.
But I don't remember there being anything about pineapple.
Last night, the CBS docuseries The Case of: JonBenét Ramsey reached its conclusion, and the public discovered that the seemingly innocuous tropical fruit rests at the center of the 20-year-long murder mystery. While the series encouraged viewers to make up their own minds about the evidence and analysis presented, a piece of partially digested pineapple found in JonBenét's intestines was a crucial detail in the reopened investigation, which was conducted by a panel of forensic, crime, and psychology experts for the TV special.
The team established that the pineapple must have been the last thing she consumed on the night of her murder. In a recreation of the kitchen from the Ramsey home as it was that night, pieced together from photographs and video footage, a bowl of pineapple soaked in milk rests on the dining table. The experts believe that the pineapple was prepared as a late-night snack for JonBenét's brother, Burke, either by himself or by Patsy.
Based on some unusual behavior that Burke exhibited in interviews with child psychologists in the days following her death, and on previous incidents of violence that he committed toward his sister—including hitting her with a golf club a mere week before she was found dead in the family basement—the team believes that a scuffle between the unsupervised siblings over the coveted pineapple led to Burke hitting his sister with a blunt object and subsequently killing her. After she snatched a piece of pineapple from the bowl, they propose, Burke could have struck her with a heavy flashlight, intentionally or unintentionally bashing in her skull.
With the possibility of a home invasion essentially ruled out by other evidence, and the pineapple theory being the only one remaining plausible in every light, the panel then proposes that the Ramsey parents might have created the infamous ransom note and staged a botched kidnapping in order to protect Burke from being accused of the killing of their daughter, and to eliminate the possibility of their only other child also being taken from them.
In the archived interview tapes, Burke acknowledges that he and his sister both loved pineapple, but then later pretends not to be able to recognize the bowl of pineapple and milk in a photo of the family's kitchen table. Skittish and seemingly nervous, he almost refuses to say the word "pineapple" at all.
Watching Burke Ramsey look at that photo of the pineapple and milk like pic.twitter.com/Mco8IaKBEr
— Mia Noble (@MiaNobl) September 20, 2016
There's motive: sweet, sweet pineapple. There's a murder weapon: a Maglite. And there's video that seems to depict creepy, sociopathic behavior. The internet went into a frenzy.
It was Burke in the dining room with the flashlight in an act of pineapple theft retaliation, case closed. #JonBenetRamsey
— Teddy Ballgame (@therealballgame) September 20, 2016
I don't have time to cry over about Brad and Angelina, I'm more upset that Burke Ramsey killed JonBenet over a pineapple.
— ₦ꀧx (@Nikkeya08) September 20, 2016
Some were just confused by the notion of eating pineapple with milk:
It's obvious Burke is guilty because only a monster eats pineapple with milk #TheCaseofJonBenét
— Nick Hautman (@nickhautman) September 20, 2016
Appearing on Dr. Phil last week for his first interview in 20 years, Burke Ramsey smiled and laughed awkwardly despite the seriousness of the questions he was faced with, and would only reiterate the following: "You won't find any evidence because that's not what happened." He also said he believed the real murderer was "probably some pedophile in the pageant audience."
We may never be 100-percent sure, but who knew that after 20 years, a single chunk of pineapple could be the key to cracking one of America's most famous murder cases? That little piece of fruit must have been the one thing all the tabloids missed.